Canadian gender clinic's gruesome photos in trans surgery promotion found in violation of ad standards

Getty Images/nito100
Getty Images/nito100

A Canadian gender clinic was found to be in violation of advertising standards following a complaint about its promotion of radical surgeries to young people using gruesome photos and post-operative patient testimonials.

In response to a complaint against the McLean Clinic — a medical outfit in Mississauga, Ontario, known for performing mastectomies on transgender-identifying females — the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario identified photos and content in the clinic's promotional efforts deemed to be misleading and undignified and had to be removed, according to Canadian Gender Report, a watchdog site that monitors the activities of transgender medicalization and activism.

One such photo that was found to be in violation of CPSO standards was a picture on the clinic's Instagram account where Dr. Giancarlo McEvenue is seen wearing a Santa hat and holding up two buckets labeled "breast tissue" that had been surgically removed from female patients.

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Cosmetic mastectomies of this type are euphemistically referred to as "top surgery."

The CPSO's decision states that the clinic is in non-compliance with the relevant Canadian law, specifically the Advertising Regulation of the Medicine Act. That regulation states that “information communicated must not be false, misleading or deceptive; must not contain a testimonial; and must be readily comprehensible, dignified and in good taste.”

In response to the CPSO's findings, the McLean clinic has made its account private — a feature that requires followers to be approved first — but advocates actively monitoring the situation say that such a move does not constitute adequate compliance.

"We find the CPSO ruling very reasonable and will be following up to ensure full compliance. Under our socialized medical system, patient testimonials cannot be used to promote a physician's services, so while the McLean clinic has made their Instagram account private, this does not meet the requirements of the ruling," said Pamela Buffone, founder of the Canadian Gender Report who filed the complaint against the clinic on behalf of a coalition of like-minded advocacy groups, in an email to The Christian Post Monday. 

The CPSO's appropriate use guidelines hold that doctors are expected to adhere to every professional expectation set forth in law, codes of ethics, and as it pertains using social media utilities.

Regarding the Instagram photo of the physician holding the buckets of breast tissue, the committee found that it was not in good taste.

"The Committee has previously determined that 'before and after' photographs are equivalent to testimonials, and thus the use of these photographs is contrary to the Advertising Regulation which indicates that when physicians communicate their professional services, the information must not contain testimonials as per 5 section 6 (2) b. In this case the post-surgery image of a patient is a testimonial in our view, and contrary to the Advertising Regulation," Canadian Gender Report noted.

"The inclusion of a photograph of an 'ideal' male chest in clinic promotional material on the Internet is misleading in that the results depicted are impossible to achieve using female to male top reconstruction surgery, and thus contrary to section 6(2) a of the Advertising Regulation."

Though advocates maintained that many of the clinic's posts appeared to market surgeries to young women through use of keywords in their social media channels, the medical body did not find that the clinic was targeting a particular age group.

Transgender surgeries and drugs such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones have come under heightened scrutiny in recent months particularly as detransitioners — individuals who once lived and identified as transgender or nonbinary — have become more visible and vocal about their experiences, publicly detailing how their bodies were harmed.

"With more and more detransitioners coming forward, the medical community would be negligent if they don't take a closer look at what's going on. And I don't think the general public is aware of how experimental the treatment is and how much marketing and promotion is behind it," Buffone previously told CP in a February interview.

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